Case study

Postgraduate researcher administrative assistant — Leliana Jardim

After completing a psychology degree, Leliana sought administrative work experience within higher education, leading to her current role at the University of Birmingham

How did you get your job?

While I was studying a BSc Psychology at Newman University Birmingham, I tried to gain as much higher education work experience, taking on various part-time jobs. A year after graduating I secured non-paid work experience at the University of Birmingham as an honorary research assistant within the psychology department.

I worked for a charity organisation and a corporate business specialising in property investing before successfully landing the postgraduate researcher administrative assistant role.

How relevant is your degree to your job?

Having done statistical analysis and research methods during my degree, it allows me to think analytically while also having an accurate eye for numbers, for instance, when I'm working with budgets for events or other department purchases. 

It gave me the necessary understanding of the higher education environment and student experience as well as the ability to communicate more effectively with a variety of individuals within a university i.e. students, academics and members of professional staff. It also brings a pre-awareness of important points of contact and support services that students would need during their academic experience.

What are your main work activities?

My work is divided between the University Graduate School and PGR careers support. Responsibilities include answering general email enquiries from current and prospective PGR students. I liaise with academics in regards to the marking of students' work. I also ensure the module handbooks and intranet sites are all up-to-date with relevant information.

I assist in planning careers conferences and events for PGRs, such as college-specific conferences and our flagship Postgraduate Enterprise Summer School (PESS). I liaise with external employers to get them to attend the day and speak at our events, research and book venues, manage student registration lists and organise catering. I am usually a meet-and-greet contact on the day, starting with the room set-up then once the event starts I am overseeing the welcome of our attendees and registering our students' attendances. Behind the scenes, I also write regular e-newsletter items and post these on our online learning management platform.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

I have become increasingly involved with supporting all graduate school team members in their respective roles and as the student body continues to grow, our team is also expanding and our postgraduate support remit is getting larger. 

Eventually I would love to be more involved with the student community engagement side of the graduate school activities.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I thoroughly enjoy the variety of my role, and being able to support students behind the scenes from the start to the end of their degrees.

I also really enjoy meeting students face-to-face and chatting with them about their current student experiences and what their backgrounds are. It's satisfying to also see all of our months of planning for events come together into fruition on the day and seeing how our students gain benefit and go away well-informed and inspired.

What are the most challenging parts?

As I also support PGR careers activities alongside my administration support role with the graduate school, I find it really important to ensure the right balance is found between the two commitments. This requires someone who is highly organised to manage various deadlines and that our PGRs are consistently supported throughout the academic year. 

Any advice for someone who wants to get into education administration?

Look for job opportunities within the university where you're studying as they are usually quite flexible and can give you the necessary experience needed to work within higher education

Jobs sites such as jobs.ac.uk are very useful when trying to find work within higher education. Don't forget to also research individual universities and check out their job listings directly on their websites.

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